With issues getting booked
early on in his career, Brian
started booking rooms himself, approaching restaurants and
offering to put together a
comedy act on one of their
slow nights in exchange for
the money collected
at the door.

bottom to top:
comics Brian Corrion,
Duncan Jay, and
Ron Feingold

Laughing It Up
in Fort Myers

by Cindy-jo Dietz

I ARRIVED FOR THE 9:30 show, on a Saturday night. Although I had been to this location some time ago, I had no idea what to expect now that new owners Brian Corrion and Janice Rodriguez had taken over in late February. Upon entering, I found myself in the main room of the club. In front of me was a large bar and to the right, tables and the stage, which had the club’s logo painted in large block letters directly behind the mic.

As I looked around, I noticed pictures everywhere of the many comics who have graced the café. Brian gave me a quick lay of the land and suggested I sit wherever I like. I found a cozy seat at table 8. From that angle I could see the stage well, but also felt tucked away in the crowd. Before I knew it, the lights dimmed, the spotlight raised and the show started.

Because the stage is in the corner of the room, it doesn’t seem to matter where you sit. You get a good view of the comics and hear them well from just about anywhere in the club. Plus, the set up provided a great platform for comics to utilize the space for audience participation.

Brian took to the stage first. His demeanor is laid back, his presence collected. He’s ‘the guy next door,’ delivering punch lines with a quiet jab. After a few jokes, he introduces the first act of the night, who tonight happened to be Ron Feingold. Ron is from the Hermosa area north of Orlando. He does a lot of national touring and has worked with Carnival Cruise Lines. With a hybrid pompadour and flat top, he’s a bit in your face, direct and hilarious. He knows his craft and has everybody in stitches in no time. Next up was Duncan Jay from Melbourne. He’s crass, he’s quick witted, and he occasionally performs to music. What’s not to love? Plus, his face is very expressive and definitely gives him a unique style of comedy. It was amazing how he just bounced off questions from and insults at audience members, waited for them to respond, and then would snap back with a retort in an instant. Both comics and owner Brian Corrion were well above the quality of comedy I would have envisioned for little old Fort Myers.

After the show, I had the opportunity to sit down with Brian and get more information about him and the café.

Brian Corrion has been in the business of comedy for over ten years. He got his start struggling like any new comic, but luckily had an affinity for marketing. With issues getting booked early on in his career, he started booking rooms himself, approaching restaurants and offering to put together a comedy act on one of their slow nights in exchange for the money collected at the door. Brian used that time to hone his craft. He would sometimes bring on an additional comic as backup to make the show more entertaining. Brian explains that this is what’s called ‘building your voice’ in the industry.

Before comedy became a way of life, Brian says he was a cereal entrepreneur. One day a friend, joking around, asked what he would do if he could have any dream job he wanted. He told him he would be a stand up comedian. He admitted it was never easy, but a passion, and he had to work a lot harder than the average guy to get up on stage and be funny.

Eventually, Brian worked his way up to purchasing the Old Naples Comedy Club near Naples’ Tin City, a 50 seat room he worked three nights a week during season. But it gave him the taste for a bigger club. He figured that if you could add more chairs, he could have bigger name comics. Brian and Janice went searching for a new venue and found Laugh In. Joe Galanis, the previous owner of the club, then called Groove Street Nightclub, was retiring and they bought Laugh In from him. The added benefit — it was already a club and so it came complete with everything they needed to operate instantly.

Many of the acts that perform at Laugh In come from around Florida, but some performers come from all over the country. Currently Laugh In receives just under 20 calls a week from comics looking for a booking. Big names such as Daniel Tosh from Tosh.0, David Brenner, Jimmi JJ Walker, Bobcat Goldthwait, and Marsha Warfield have worked the stage in the past at what is now the Laugh In Café. Even Steven Michael Quezada, who played DA agent Gomez on the TV show Breaking Bad has made his appearance. Brian says Quezada was a really cool guy to hang out with — very positive.

You can catch shows regularly Thursdays at 7:30pm, and Friday and Saturdays at 7:30pm and 9:30pm. The Comedy Café offers a full bar and dinner. One Wednesday a month is open mic nights. In November, Laugh In is adding a kid’s magic show Saturday afternoons for children ages four to fourteen. Brian also plans on expanding the show schedule further by including showcase nights where 6 professional comics come in doing a fifteen minute set each.

They have also added a murder mystery dinner theatre show, resembling the game of Clue. The audience gets to figure out who the murderer is. For added fun, Laugh In encourages audience members to dress with the theme of the mystery.

Andy Gross will be perfroming at Laugh In for a one night only event. Andy is a nationally acclaimed, world class magician, and has had over a million and a half views on Facebook of his tricks. Greg Hahn, Marc Price and Dat Phan will be performing in the spring. Dat Phan was the winner of the very first season of Last Comic Standing.

I asked Brian to fill me in on some of the details about his open mic nights. Brian says aspiring comics are welcome and should call Laugh In to book an appearance. They usually have around 12-14 slots available.

All six new particpants coming to the next open mic are brand new, including a 60 year old woman in a motorized chair with MS. She wants to give it a try and she’s going for it. Brian says “It’s always great seeing the Open Mic’ers. Many have to try it once and they don’t know what to do. Some really prep for it and are very natural, and some you just have to sit back and laugh at them, not necessarily with them. But the show must go on.” •

Laugh In Comedy Cafe is located at 8595 College Pkwy. in Fort Myers. Call 479-5233 for information.

November-December 2016